‘Smart Money’: VC firm Our Innovation Fund backs two tech startups to the tune of $5m
The EFTsure founding team: Mark Chazan, Ian Mirels and Mike Kontorovich
Tue 18 July 2017 - 2:59 pmFeatured | Noticeboard | Raising capital | Startup
Sydney-based startups EFTsure and Assignar have secured a combined $5 million in Series A capital, this month, from Our Innovation Fund (OIF), a new VC firm building a $50m portfolio of early-stage tech businesses.
Founded in late 2016 by investors Geoff Levy, David Shein and Jerry Stesel, OIF is – Levy told Dynamic Business – a sector and industry agnostic fund with a “relatively flexible mandate”.
“The team has been investing together in early stage businesses for decades and we decided to formalise that into a fund last year,” he said. “Our ‘sweet spot’ is an early stage business with innovative, high-growth or disruptive technologies or business models with demonstrated market demand and a defensible competitive edge. We are focused on partnering with exceptional entrepreneurs who are building world-class innovative and scalable early stage technology businesses.”
Commenting on OIF’s $3m investment in construction-tech startup Assignar and the firm’s $2m investment payment protection platform EFTsure, Levy said, “Both businesses are fantastic opportunities run by very capable, genuine, honest and humble teams and ones we feel we have significant value to add”.
Other startups in OIF’s portfolio include Instaclustr, Enboarder, Recomazing, Stream Lending and Advanced Navigation.
“Construction is ripe for disruption,” says Assignar CEO
Founded by serial entrepreneurs Sean McCreanor (CEO) and Marko Tomic (CTO) in 2014, Assignar is a cloud-based SaaS platform that assists construction contractors to improve efficiency and safety by providing them with end-to-end, real-time management of their workforce, assets and compliance. Since launching in November 2015, it has signed up more than 80 clients across Australia and the United States, including UGL, Lendlease, Sydney Trains and Liebherr.
McCreanor attributes Assignar’s early success to its “great technology stack”, the actionable insights offered by its initial clients (“they’ve helped us shape the platform into what it is today”) and his ‘first-hand’ knowledge of the problems faced by contractors – in fact, the technology was initially developed to address inefficiencies in his own construction business.
“Due to the growth of cloud and mobile technology as options in the field, the construction sector is ripe for disruption,” McCreanor told Dynamic Business. “On top of that, the generation entering construction are digitally savvy and expect to use tech. As such, there’s a huge opportunity to shift away from the inefficient methods the sector has relied on – like paper, excel spreadsheets and whiteboards – and embrace technology that deliver real time data and insights around what’s happening on a job site.”
According to McCreanor, when he and Tomic were seeking investment for Assignar, they wanted to attract strategic partners who were not only experienced in B2B and SaaS, with a great track record, but who could “add value beyond capital”.
“OIF was a no-brainer for us,” he said. “The value-add we received, within 48 hours of our very first meeting, was incredible. Specifically, they facilitated appointments for us with executives from some of the biggest construction companies in Australia. The strategic insights provided by OIF provides allow us to look to the future and roadmap exactly how we can get there.
“In terms of the $3m in funding, it will be used to build out our engineering, marketing and customer success teams here in Sydney. We will also use some of the capital to explore the US market further. We already know there is a strong market and growth opportunity, as the same problem exists over there! So our goal is to work really hard in the coming months on a go-to-market strategy so we can launch officially in the US in early 2018.”
“OIF is a value-add partner,” says EFTsure’s CEO
Founded in 2014 by finance and bank tech professionals Ian Mirels, Mike Kontorovich and Mark Chazan, EFTsure has developed a software platform that validates the integrity of business payment data.
According to Mirels, the CEO, EFTsure mitigates the ‘rapidly growing’ risk of payment error and fraud, the latter of which costs Australian businesses $700m per year, by utilising a cloud-based, ‘crowd-sourced’ supplier database that matches payee names to bank account numbers in real-time, at the point of payment. He added, “Our solution augments or replaces manual verification processes that rely in trust, ensuring clients pay who they intend to pay”.
Since launching in August 2016, EFTsure has signed up and partnered with including ASX200 companies, local government and SMBs across a range of industries.
Mirels said it was an “obvious choice” to partner with OIF, which is represented on EFTsure’s board. He told Dynamic Business, “They have added significant value to EFTsure in addition to investing in the business. They have helped us with the strategic direction of EFTsure, with introductions to customers and partners as well as with general business support.
“When people talk about finding a “smart money” or a “value-add” partner, they’re looking for an investor who’ll roll up their sleeves and add material value – and we’ve definitely found that with OIF. We see them as a key part of the EFTsure team going forward.”
Mirels said the $2 million in funding will be used to scale EFTsure’s marketing and sales operations, to ‘ramp up’ partner relationships, and to enhance its offering while addressing the New Payments Platform (NPP), which will be available in October.
“The NPP is a major industry initiative to develop new national infrastructure for fast, flexible, data rich payments in Australia,” he said.
“EFTsure’s current payment protection offering sits on top of the existing payments network and when New Payments Platform becomes available in the coming months, we will be looking at how our offering can add value through platform integration.”